Watch: Rick Cole, Executive Director for the Congress for the New Urbanism
On how a shared regional vision leads to cities that work for everyone
On January 20, 2022, the SACOG Board of Directors heard a presentation from Rick Cole, executive director of Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) about the importance of the built environment in achieving regional goals.
In the Sacramento region, any discussion on the linkage between land use and transportation starts with the original Sacramento Region Blueprint. That strategy, developed by SACOG nearly 20 years ago, was a collaborative effort that set a shared vision for central cities, suburbs, and rural areas to grow together and address long-standing problems of suburban sprawl and leapfrog development. The outward expansion of cities exacerbates growing problems with climate change, housing affordability, and the cost of highway infrastructure and maintenance. The Blueprint was so successful that it became the model for regional growth throughout all of California and became the basis for SB 375.
During Cole’s presentation he reiterated the importance of looking outside of jurisdictional boundaries and taking a regional approach to solving the problems we face today. He explained that land use affects many of our region’s most pressing issues like air quality, traffic congestion, generational wealth, and the economy. However, these issues transcend local boundaries; therefore, each jurisdiction cannot resolve them by acting autonomously. As a former city councilmember and city manager, Cole understands how daunting it can be to take actions that benefit the region but might not please your most outspoken constituents. He explains that you wouldn’t need to impose these changes on local communities but rather allow residents an environment to develop a shared vision together. He explained his experience, as mayor of Pasadena, of rewriting the General Plan from scratch to adopt a new land use pattern. By gathering his constituents and facilitating small group discussions that encouraged participants to look past their differing views to find common ground, not only were they able to finalize a plan that ended up benefiting the community economically for the next 20 years, but they also empowered those one doesn’t typically hear from to share their ideas.
Cole reminds listeners that as SACOG staff begins the 2024 update of the region’s long-range transportation and land use plan (2024 Blueprint), the 2004 Sacramento Region Blueprint principles, including a shared vision both locally and regionally, are more relevant than ever.
Watch Cole’s presentation to see how he uses his unique experience as an elected local official, city manager, and urban policy expert to explain the importance of working together to make our region less car centric, which will improve our quality of life and increase our access to safe walking, biking infrastructure, and community spaces. Ultimately these steps will help solve our most pressing issues like air quality, traffic congestion, and the economy.